Episode 60 - Seattle HempFest RIP ???

It’s been 7 years since Washington legalized, but Hempfest, Seattle’s largest and oldest cannabis celebration is under attack from state and local governments. Hempfest co-founder, Vivian McPeak, joins us to talk about how he’s fighting back.


Twenty eight years ago a few hundred folks gathered in downtown Seattle to celebrate the publication of Jack Herer’s seminal book, The Emperor Wears No Clothes. In the same way that Burning Man morphed from a local gathering into an international phenomenon, Hempfest caught fire. Every year, 100,000 celebrants gather along the parks bordering Puget Sound to listen to music and speakers, get educated about medical cannabis, register to vote and learn how to expunge their records of cannabis so called crimes. In almost three decades this “protestival,” as Vivian McPeak, Hempfest’s co-founder calls it, has been staged with little incident, accident or emergency. It’s such an inclusive event that in 2013, the year after Washington legalized, the cops handed out bags of Doritos to festival goers stickered with labels explaining the dos and don’ts of the new laws.

But today the city and the state (not to mention Expedia.com) are trying to undercut the festival's financing by passing laws and ordinances that make it increasingly impossible for cannabis enterprises to advertise. Under threat, McPeak has initiated legal action against the city and state, challenging the constitutionality of these harsh commercial restrictions.

“The city and state are coming after us on multiple levels,” says McPeak. “They’re treating cannabis like it's Oxycontin.”

In this interview McPeak wonders aloud if this will be Seattle’s final Hempfest, but as an experienced social justice activist he also has some wise things to say about how to speak “flower to power” without losing your cool (but still maintaining your edge), especially in these incendiary political times.

Joe Dolce